REALTORS® Say Market Is in Recovery Phase of Pandemic as Buyers Return

After enduring months of setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey from the National Association of Realtors® shows that more than nine in 10 of its members believe they are in the process of recovering as many states start to reopen their economies.

NAR’s 2020 Market Recovery Survey polled agents about their respective residential and commercial real estate markets, finding that 92% of respondents stated that a portion of their buyers have either returned to or never left the market. Among those members, 18% reported that their buyers never left the market at all, and 9% said that all of their buyers have already returned to the market. Small towns and rural areas were more likely to report that there had been no pause in buyer activity and were also more likely to report a stronger return of buyers to the market.

“The residential market has seen a swift rebound of activity as numerous states have begun to ease mandatory stay-at-home orders,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Many potential buyers and home sellers were kept at bay in the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak, but Realtors® nationwide were able to quickly pivot, embracing technology and business practices to ensure the home buying process continued in a safe manner.”

In terms of seller activity, 89% of Realtors® said a share of their clients have either returned to the market or never delisted their property. Roughly one-quarter of respondents, or 24%, indicated that their sellers never left the market. Suburban and urban markets are more likely to have reported fewer sellers returning to the market compared to small and rural markets.

While the housing market as a whole was understandably caught off-guard by the pandemic, the NAR survey found that many members are now prepared should another surge of the coronavirus occur. Thirty-nine percent of those polled said they are at least somewhat prepared for a second wave of the disease, with 19% reporting they are “very prepared.” Moreover, of those who believe there might be a resurgence, 30% said they are more prepared now, as they know what to expect. Twenty-seven percent indicated that they are concerned enough that they have changed their business practices in some form in order to be prepared for another bout of the virus.

Of those who are currently working with buyers, 54% said that their buyers’ timelines to find and purchase a home has remained the same, while 27% report that their clients now express more urgency about buying a home.

Among NAR membership currently working with sellers, two-thirds said that their sellers’ timelines to sell have remained the same. Twenty-three percent reported sellers who feel more urgency to sell their property. Less urgency was cited more frequently in urban areas and in suburban areas or small towns and rural markets.

“A number of potential buyers noted stalled plans due to the pandemic and that has led to more urgency and a pent-up demand to buy,” said Yun. “After being home for months on end – in a home they already wanted to leave – buyers are reminded how much their current home may lack certain desired features or amenities.”

In some cases, respondents reported changes in their buyers’ preferences. Twenty-four percent of Realtors® indicated having buyers who shifted the location of where they intend to buy a house due to the coronavirus. Among those who noted having buyers change their intended location, 47% stated that their buyers prefer to purchase housing in the suburbs, 39% cited rural areas, and 25% cited smaller town markets.

Thirty-five percent of NAR members surveyed said buyers have modified at least one home feature that is important to them because of the coronavirus outbreak. The most common home features cited as increasingly important are home offices, spaces to accommodate family members new to the residence – older adult relatives, newborns or new pets – larger homes with more personal space and bigger yards that would allow for growing foods.

Also, in response to the pandemic, 13% said that homebuyers changed their home type of choice from multi-family to single-family. This shift is highest in urban markets at 16%. Thirty-three percent answered that buyers have adjusted commuting needs since the pandemic began, with 22% less concerned with their commute and 7% wanting to live close to bike trails that connect them to work. Just 5% responded that they now have a greater concern about parking and more concern for a location that affords the ability to drive to work.

On the commercial real estate front, some members indicated that they are contending with hardships, as only 19% of property managers said they have been receiving all rent payments on time, and only 36% of individual landlords have received timely payments.

Seventy-four percent have reported that leases have been terminated or said tenants have needed to delay rent payments, with the greatest shares (56%) happening in non-essential retail establishments, followed by the office sector at 38%. However, grocery stores are faring well, the least cited of the commercial properties at 4%.

“Consumers have been forced to move away from buying in stores and are now doing much more shopping from home,” said Yun. “Unfortunately, this has come at the detriment of commercial property owners, but these circumstances could be an opportunity for growth in the industrial warehouse market, as Americans have become more reliant on home delivery services.”

As economies reopen, 44% of NAR members say they expect the demand for industrial properties to increase, and 35% expect the demand for multi-family properties to increase. In comparison, 72% expect the demand for non-essential retail to decline and 66% said they expect office usage to decrease.

The biggest concern for small businesses, according to 83% of commercial members, is a lack of profitability due to a decrease in customers. A majority of Realtors® also expressed concern with the following: a resurgence of the outbreak forcing another shutdown (66%), protecting the health of employees, (61%) and challenges with implementing social-distancing measures (59%).

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

If you are ready to list your house or need help finding the right home for you and your family, Talk To Tammy 636-931-9100!

Mortgage Rates hit another all-time LOW

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.15% last week. It is the lowest ever recorded in a Freddie Mac data series that goes back almost five decades.

The rate fell from 3.24% last week, setting a new record low for the third time in three months, according to the report.

Mortgage rates have fallen after the Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities to stimulate demand, said Chris Low, chief economist of FHN Financial in New York. The Fed has purchased more than half a trillion dollars of MBS after restarting in March a bond-buying program it used during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

When the initial plan of buying $200 billion of MBS didn’t lower financing costs, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on March 23 the central bank would buy whatever was needed to move rates. It worked.

“The Fed is by far the biggest player in the mortgage markets right now, the biggest buyer of mortgages, and because of that, they have almost complete control over the interest rate,” Low said.

That means the central bank has the ability to stimulate home sales by driving rates to lows that most people wouldn’t have thought possible a few years ago, said Low.

“Every economist had doubts about how housing would fare during COVID-19, but what we’ve seen has been absolutely remarkable,” Low said. “Home sales are holding up extraordinarily well, and that’s in large part because of the mortgage rates.”

Last week, applications for mortgages to purchase homes gained for the sixth consecutive week to a level that was 6.7% higher than a year ago, when the U.S. was having a normal “spring homebuying season”.

A seasonally adjusted index measuring purchase applications jumped 9%, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report on Wednesday. The so-called purchase apps were up 54% from early April when most U.S. states were under lockdown orders to keep people at home in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Is now the right time to purchase a new home or make investments in this real estate market?

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Will Coronavirus Create Multifamily Investment Opportunities?

The past several years have been marked by an increase in average rent prices in many major U.S. cities, a lack of affordable multifamily housing, and a tight rental market. The pandemic and potential recession that may result isn’t likely to lead to more affordable housing, but it could lead to opportunities for some investors ready to cash in on properties in secondary markets.

Here are 3 ways that the multifamily housing market might be impacted by the pandemic.

1. House Foreclosures Could Lead to More Rental Demand

For the immediate future, tenants may be stuck in place, unable to move either due to logistical or economic reasons. Some multifamily buildings are prohibiting new residents, while others only permit remote showings, which can make it harder for prospective tenants to make a decision.

A report from Attom Data Solutions showed nationwide foreclosure lows in February 2020. However, Chief Product Officer Todd Teta predicts a rise in foreclosures once courts lift the ban on foreclosures and evictions. This could lead to more people seeking apartments, which could create a market ripe for landlords.

Much depends on what happens once the country re-opens—and when that phased reopening occurs.

“We want states to open up at a safe pace, but obviously, as the economic situation gets worse, that will impact the opportunities available in the market,” says Brant Brown, COO and CFO of Westmount Realty Capital, a commercial real estate investment and development firm in Dallas. “We’re looking at what the unemployment story is going to be, what collections are going to be, and how quickly the states re-open.”

2. Tighter Lending Restrictions Will Force Investors Not to Over-Leverage

The NMHC report spotlights tighter lending restrictions, showing the Equity Financing Index dropping from 61 to 13, and the Debt Financing Index plummeting from 68 to 20.

According to the report’s statistics, 75% of respondents said that equity financing was less available than in the three months prior; 71% of respondents said debt financing conditions were less favorable.

Especially now, Brown advises investors to avoid over-leveraging property or not leaving enough cash in the bank for repairs and emergency expenses, which could include tenants not paying rent due to job loss.

“A lot of multifamily operators have been running their properties cash-poor. In times like this, it really catches up with them,” Brown says.

In spite of low interest rates, underwriters will be looking to make sure investors have sufficient capital to manage the property.

3. Investors could find opportunities in suburban markets.

The second month of the pandemic in the U.S. found many city-dwellers temporarily fleeing their apartments for more space and a change of scenery.

“The fundamental story of [urban] markets is attractive, so I wouldn’t place bets on what the long term [impact] will be,” Brown says. “In the short run, a lot of people are very concerned about [the spread of the virus], and they’re going to vote with their feet.”

Cities may become less desirable places to live as the risk of infection continues to weigh on communities and remote work has people spending more time at home. Residents may seek larger apartments with more amenities in less populated areas, says Brown. “Wherever they move, it probably won’t be those city centers.”

More Homeowners Sprucing up their Gardens and Curb Appeal in the Time of Coronavirus

One positive thing that appears be to happening in the time of coronavirus sheltering /staying in place orders is that people are engaging in more home hobbies and creative activities that they may have not had time for before due to social activities. One can see a lot of articles about staying creative or why the quarantine can make one more creative.  One activity that Americans apparently have spent more time and money on is gardening, based on retail sales and employment data.  This is a good time for homeowners because gardening, yard improvements, and minor home renovation or simple do-it-yourself projects (deck) improve curbside appeal and reflect the kind of care and maintenance that homeowners put into their homes, both external and internal. Attractive gardens, a clean yard, freshly coated fences, mended pathways will make a home attractive to buyers, in the time of and after the coronavirus social distancing period.

Building materials/gardening store sales and employment are up compared to retail trade

Retail sales data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that retail sales of building materials, garden equipment, and supply dealer stores (NAICS 444) increased 1% in March from February and was up 7% on a year-over-year basis. In comparison, retail sales and food services fell 9% on a month-over-month basis and 6% on a year-over-year basis.  Other industries that had higher sales in March were grocery stores (+27% m/m and +29% y/y); health and personal care stores (+4% m/m, +4% y/y), and general merchandise stores that includes department stores and other general merchandise stores (6% m/m, 7% y/y).

In 2019, Americans spent nearly $380 billion (retail sales) on building materials, garden equipment, and supplies. Building materials and supply stores (paint and wallpaper stores and hardware stores) sold $334 billion (so $41 billion is garden supplies).

While brick-and-mortar retail stores have shed about 300,000 jobs since January 2017, the employment in brick and mortar stores has remained relatively flat at 1.3 million. In March 2020, it is one of the few sectors that posted year-over-year employment gains, of 11,500 jobs. However, employment did fall by nearly 4,000 from February to March.

Impact of landscaping on home values

What’s the impact of projects that improve a home’s curb appeal on the likelihood of selling a home and home values? According to NAR’s 2018 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features,  “74% of REALTORS® suggested sellers complete a landscape maintenance program before attempting to sell, and 17 percent said the project most recently sealed a deal for them, resulting in a closed transaction.” The cost in 2018 was $3,000 and 100% was recovered when the home was sold.

Single-family detached homes with green spaces: part of the American dream

Since 2009, the prices of single-family homes have also picked up faster than condominiums, as low mortgage rates have made a home purchase more affordable, as well as due to difficulty obtaining individual-unit mortgage financing in condominium projects that are not FHA-approved.1 As of March 2020, the median sales price of single-detached as $282,500, or nearly $20,000 more than the median sales price of condominiums/coops of $263,400.  Since January 2012, the median sales price of single-family detached homes has increased by 83% compared to 70% for condominiums/coops. The higher price of single-family homes reflects the preference of buyers for these homes, perhaps because the house with the picket fence and green yard embodies the attainment of the American dream of homeownership.

We can help you sell your house or support you finding a new home,

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Most REALTORS® Confident That Home Prices Will Stand Firm

Many real estate professionals don’t foresee a significant drop in home prices from the COVID-19 pandemic, and certainly not to the degree of the Great Recession’s impact on the housing market. For residential property prices over the next 12 months, 38% of more than 4,000 REALTORS® say they expect prices to increase and 23% expect prices to remain stable, according to the March 2020 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey, a monthly survey of real estate transactions conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. 

“Although the pandemic continues to be a major disruption in regards to the timing of home sales, home prices have been holding up well,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement following a report on pending home sales in March. “In fact, due to the ongoing housing shortage, home prices are likely to squeeze out a gain in 2020 to a new record high.”

Home prices were still rising across the country as the pandemic widened in scope in the U.S. in March. As of March, the median home sales price increased 8% year over year to $282,500, according to NAR.

“Prices have held up due to a combination of measures under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed plus the additional $484 billion funding passed April 23 to pay for unemployment insurance benefit claims and payroll assistance for small businesses,” Scholastica Cororaton, a research economist for NAR, notes on the association’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

The median list prices in several markets are still up compared to a year ago, according to realtor.com® data. For example, in Los Angeles, the median list price is up 16% compared to a year ago, while in Las Vegas and Denver, median listing prices are up by 3.6% and 3.5%, respectively, compared to a year ago. In the New York-New Jersey area, which has accounted for the largest share of coronavirus cases in the country, median listing prices are still up from one year ago by 2.9%.

As of April 18, 58 of the 100 largest metros were still seeing higher median listing prices when compared to a year prior, according to realtor.com® data. Properties were staying on the market longer—six more days during the week of April 18 compared to April 2019.

But markets like Washington, D.C., were seeing median list prices up by 4.4% the week of April 18 compared to a year prior.

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